Behind the Scenes - Frank Paur Interview

Having previously served as the Supervising Producer for all four of The Invincible Iron Man, Frank Paur returns to Marvel Animation Age to anwser questions regarding his most recent work on the Dr. Strange Direct To DVD feature

Marvel Animation Age: You previously worked as Supervising Producer on ďThe Invincible Iron ManĒ for Marvel/Lionsgate. How did you come to work on Doctor Strange and what was your initial reaction to working on one of Marvelís more obscure characters?

I was still very much involved with The Invincible Iron Man when I was approached to tackle Doctor Strange. Strange was already in development, the script was already finalized and development art had already been created. At that point Eric Rollman and Craig Kyle wanted to add my take on how I would approach the character. My reaction at this time, simply put was: ďOH MY GOD! HOW AM I GOING TO GET THIS DONE.Ē!!? Iron man was incredibly ambitious and required a tremendous amount of my time, but at that point most of its story boards were already done and the editing was taking the majority of my attention. Design is a different discipline, and was actually a welcome break to the editing process, so taking on the good doctor was doable. Not to mention, it was Doctor Strange, so what self-respecting cartoonist wouldnít want to adapt the character to animation? It may have been one of Marvelís more obscure titles to some, but not to me. I was always a fan.

Paur: I was always a big fan of Gene Colan and Frank Brunner. It was only later that I began to appreciate the imagination of Steve Ditko, so yes, I can say that I tried to get a little of each of them into the design. Kevin Knowlandís work was definitely on my mind with the design as well. When you look at Colanís work, to me itís as if itís already animated, it flows so beautifully that it literally takes you on a ride as you glide through the pages. Frank Brunnerís work on the title had such a masterly approach to the mysterious, and the mood that his work produced has been untouchable by most artists. Kevinís art had a quality of line and proportion to his drawings that added a level of sophistication that, in my eyes, leapt from comics to fine illustration. And Iíve always thought that Steve Ditkoís work on Doctor Strange very much influenced the last part of ď2001: A Space Odyssey.Ē He really did try to blow your mind with all those dimensional universes - kind of a tough act to follow.

MAA: What thought went into the designs of the feature? Was there ever any temptation to try and translate Steve Ditkoís unique look/tone for the feature?

Paur: When you assemble these types of movies you have to consider the needs of the story and what style of art will be most effective in determining how that story is told. Then, you have to do it on a timetable. On top of that, you have to utilize the strengths of the people that work with you and use that strength to their full advantage.

On Doctor Strange, I felt that the direction we took was the best one for the story that we told. Sometimes itís a gut thing, and when you go with it, you have no time for second guessing. Iíll leave that to the fans.

As I mentioned previously, as much as I respect Steveís work, I also am a fan of Geneís and of Frankís. Deciding on a style is not easy. Steve Ditkoís art is deceptively difficult. There was always the temptation to go ahead and use Steveís designs for the film; I even went so far as to work on some of the characters using his approach. But as I said, his work is not so easy to translate to moving animation, in particular his unique approach to parallel worlds. Sometimes that which works great in print is a little more difficult to approach in film. At least, for me it was. And if youíre going to adapt the work of an artist like Steve, you really want to get it right. If we do another one of these, there are elements of Steveís style that, with the right story and schedule, I would really want to explore more fully.

MAA: Doctor Strange is sporting a new outfit for the film. What was the reasoning for using that and not his traditional costume?

Paur: Iíve stated in other interviews that Iím not really a big fan of men in tights. Seriously, the design tone and texture of the film did not lend itself to the traditional tights and puffy shirts. We were designing an action/horror look to the film and needed to update the look of the sixties design to match something more at taste with the current audience we were addressing.

MAA: You encountered some problems with CGI on The Invincible Iron Man. Did this prompt you to use less of it in Doctor Strange or did you manage to overcome the problem this time around?

Paur: On Iron man, we had some extremely complex armor designs, so CGI felt right for that project. On Doctor Strange, it was magic that was our main concern, and although CGI was used in Strange, it was very minimal. The magic FX just felt right, animated traditionally.

MAA: What direction would you like to take the character if a sequel is green lighted?

Paur: Iím sure that everyone associated with the film has their own particular story that they would like to explore, and I think that we set up a definite direction with the teaser on the end of the movie. The guy has talent, but it is raw, and there is much he has to learn about his craft. There is so much in the world of Doctor Strange to explore, the possibilities are endless. Letís just see what happens with this one before we get ahead of ourselves.

MAA: With the exception of the Ultimate Avengers sequel, all of Marvelís DTV features are origin stories, is there ever any temptation to ignore/skip over the origin, and tell stories with the characters already established as a hero or is it too important to tell how they come to be?

Paur: Not all the stories that we have to tell need be origin stories. Although there is always going to be a certain amount of that when you work in a movie format, itís just that the stories we have told thus far are very strong stories. That doesnít mean that future plans all call for origins, however; I know that there have been discussions on projects that are not, and those stories are pretty powerful in their own right. But youíre just going to have to wait to see what they are. You wonít be disappointed.

The Marvel Animation Age would like to thank Frank for taking the time to talk to us once again. Cheers Frank!